LONDON (AP) — A Scottish cardinal on Sunday acknowledged having engaged in unspecified sexual misbehavior, apologized for his actions, and promised to stay out of the church’s public life in a statement that comes at an awkward time for the Vatican.
Cardinal Keith O’Brien had been Britain’s highest-ranking Catholic leader until he resigned Monday from his position as archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh, a departure prompted by a newspaper report about unnamed priests’ allegations that he acted inappropriately toward them.
O’Brien initially rejected the claims, saying he was resigning because he did not want to distract from the upcoming conclave of cardinals that is due to pick a successor to Benedict XVI, who resigned the papacy Thursday. O’Brien also became the first cardinal to recuse himself from the conclave because of personal scandal; other voting-age cardinals have in the past stayed home because of infirmity or because they were prevented by their governments from participating.
On Sunday, the Catholic church in Scotland issued a statement quoting O’Brien as saying that there had been times “that my sexual conduct has fallen below the standards expected of me as a priest, archbishop and cardinal.”
“To those I have offended, I apologize and ask forgiveness,” the statement continued. “To the Catholic church and people of Scotland, I also apologize. I will now spend the rest of my life in retirement. I will play no further part in the public life of the Catholic church in Scotland.”
O’Brien gave no clue as to what exactly his sexual misbehavior consisted of, but his statement is nonetheless another reminder of the church’s struggle shake off a litany of sex scandals, including those involving pedophile priests.
The claims against O’Brien were first reported by The Observer newspaper.
In its Feb. 24 edition, the British newspaper reported that O’Brien was alleged to have made what it described as “an inappropriate approach” to a seminarian after night prayers.